Words and music. You have your music, just strutting its stuff around, speaking its own language, having the time of its life. Then music meets words, and all hell breaks loose.
Music follows a more restrictive set of rules and structure than do words. Music follows music theory, and if something sounds bad, it is.
In contrast, words can be nearly anything. And words can have real effects in life that little else can accomplish, at least not as efficiently or quickly.
Words can start a fight in an instant. Words can turn "no" into "yes" quicker than much else can. Words can remind a person of something they had forgotten, and change a perspective as switfly as the words themselves took to receive.
I'm a big fan of Jimi Hendrix' use of words with his music. Poetry is about the only moniker you can throw on it — there's mental homework involved in some of his words. When you get what he means, the understanding is a gift. All the while, his guitar gently weeps in the background.
His words serve his music because they give you constant nuggets of goodness that require you wrap your brain around.
Some artists' words are an afterthought and an opportunity to shove the spotlight back over to the music, given the randomness of the gibberish of what they sing. It's cool man, there's no judgement here. Art is art — it is not beholden to many rules for a reason. Gibberish lyrics have their place next to music as well.
But what got me thinking about musical poetry was a new album I recently heard by Denver hip hop group Flobots, whom you probably know from their single "Handlebars" a few years back.
Flobots were a group that came into the Colorado Daily offices and performed for our cameras and microphones, published on our YouTube channel called Second Story Garage.
At a quick glance, Flobots are about enacting change through lyrics. Not to take anything away from the fact that this hip-hop group plays real instruments and that their music is creative and exciting, but their focus is chiefly on their lyrics, their message and the activism that is so important to each of the members.
The group calls their music "protest songs," but their May release "Noenemies" is just as much a musical treat as it is a sober reality check and a call to action.
There seems to be a local trend in doing this. A few other area musicians come to mind that are also tackling controversial subjects and taking a side.
If you live in Longmont, you are probably familiar with The Prairie Scholars. Husband-and-wife duo Andy and Jessica Eppler have been crafting intelligent lyrics around their music for some time now. Interestingly, the loquacious twosome just released an instrumental-only EP, available on their website. But everything they do — the music, the podcast, the book, everything — is rooted in a desire to communicate. Check them out if you have the chance, with more info at prairiescholars.com.
More local musical activists to share next week.